Benton returns to Ohio comfort zone
Penguin is on 4th team in 4 years
By Brian Dzenis
Jaylen Benton is back in Ohio and is back in his comfort zone.
Youngstown State is the final stop for the journeyman point guard from Columbus and he’s settled into his role as the team’s sixth man. The Penguins are his fourth team in four years.
“It’s better being closer to home. I’m closer to the people who support me — it hasn’t been like that since I was in high school,” Benton said during the team’s media availability on Monday. “I’m just happy to be where I’m at. I’m happy to be here with the guys and we’re going to try and win this Horizon League.”
After graduating from Westerville North High School, he started out in the junior college ranks at Central Arizona College before changing coasts at Monroe College in the Bronx. Benton made the jump the Division I ranks and started 21 games at Southeast Missouri State.
But SEMO proved to be an unfit home. The Redhawks program is currently banned from the postseason because it had fallen short of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards from the 2012-13 season through the 2015-16 seasons.
Those issues were compounded by allegations that a former assistant coach arranged to have a recruit receive fraudulent academic credit. The Redhawks’ probation from the NCAA is expected to end in 2019.
Head Jerrod Calhoun, who couldn’t attend Monday’s availability because of a previous recruiting commitment, has previously called Benton a “last-minute” addition to the team.
“I feel like everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had some progression,” Benton said. “When I transferred here, I’ve learned about pressing and playing a very fast-paced style.
“I feel like I’ve been able to help every team I’ve been on.”
Benton averages 5.7 points per game and is shooting a team-best 40-percent from three among players with at least 40 attempts.
Last Saturday against IUPUI, he scored 12 points off the bench to help the Penguins (6-15, 4-4 in the Horizon League) snap a four-game losing streak.
The Penguins travel to Wisconsin this week for games against Milwaukee on Thursday and Green Bay on Saturday.
Sporting a 1-9 mark when traveling, the next objective for the Penguins is getting their first road victory since New Year’s Day.
“We haven’t had a road win since Cleveland State,” Benton said. “We have to take what we do at home and bring it to someone else’s house.”